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625450_10151331300703111_1403634286_nDespite my penchant for trials of physical endurance, I haven’t been especially fit for most of my life, primarily because I let life get in the way and I don’t stay consistent with healthy eating or exercise. But I’ve always felt the strongest and most vital when my body was of use. My pregnancies, while riddled with unpleasant side effects, were healthy and I often drew strength from the visualization that I was helping to create another being. Delivery was made more manageable by the thought that it was finite and there was a point to it, something wonderful in the end.

That thought came into play this week when I underwent a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) harvesting procedure in hopes of saving an unknown cancer patient’s life. It was not the surgical option many think of with bone marrow donation. There were none of those risks to be concerned about nor that kind of recovery. But the PBSC is no walk in the park. Five days out donors begin daily shots of neuprogen, which helps stimulate the growth of stem cells in the blood. Because of that the bones and muscles become extremely achy, like the worst case of the flu you’ve ever had. But a good acetominophen regimen and lots of water makes that manageable. The procedure itself involves having a rigid needle in one arm drawing blood into the closed tubing of the machinery, where it is spun in a centrifuge, separating the layers and extracting the stem cells. The remaining blood is then returned to your body, with accompanying extra fluids, via a needle in the other arm. And that goes on for 5-6 hours.

It was uncomfortable and sometimes straight painful (because you still have those achy feelings). And so hard to sit through by the end. But damned if I didn’t still feel amazing. There was a grand purpose to it all. And I love everything about that feeling.

Five years ago I didn’t think I could exist without the man I’d married at age 20. His personality and force of will dominated my world and colored every decision I made, to the point where I questioned my own decision-making abilities. Since then I’ve run a half marathon, hopefully helped save a life, kicked my career up a few notches, moved into my own place, and embraced the rollercoaster ride that is raising two teenagers — without a partner. I’ve screwed up quite a few things along the way but I’m closer to understanding that that’s just a part of being human and not a defect in me. I know I am strong. I know I am powerful. I know I have a purpose.

 

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Sitting here on the couch this Saturday morning, watching Melissa Harris-Perry and her guests discuss the crisis of the children crossing the Mexican border. My 13-year-old daughter is sitting in the other corner of the couch, iPad in hand, probably filling online shopping site carts with things she’ll later ask me to buy. And while that impending mini-battle already annoys me, I was feeling pretty good because in one of the first segments of the show, which was about the chokehold-by-police death of Eric Garner, she had been more actively paying attention and making conversation with me about it. And as I wrote that last line, she looked up and asked a great probing question about immigration, which I attempted to answer without getting too long-winded (my usual struggle).

I’m filled with hope and joy that I can add MHP to my weekend education toolbox. For the last few years, my CBS Sunday Morning habit has provided some interesting teachable and bonding moments between me and my kids. They’d always be doing something else in the living room or near there and something from the show would seep in and engage them. I took those brief spurts of conversation as glimpses of the erudite adults I hoped they’d become.

There is such a thing as too much information for kids. The world is terrifying for even adults right now. And seeing too much of what’s going on out there can make a child feel like they are not ever safe and cause them anxiety. But I think for teenagers in particular, who are inclined to deep deep self involvement and who can have an outsized sense of their needs and wants, understanding what’s going on in the larger world is very important. And even as I despair at the ratchet music or shows they are almost obligated to be attracted to as teens,  I hope that these toe-dips into my TV world complements the education they get in school during the week and continues to foster conversation between us here at home.

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